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San Francisco municipal workers demand city act after facing assaults, violent threats on streets

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A group of San Francisco street vendor inspectors is demanding the city’s Board of Supervisors address the threats and violence they’ve endured on the job.

Around a dozen inspectors, whose job it is to enforce the city’s vendor laws, spoke before the board in a hearing this week detailing harassment and abuse they claim they’ve received from unruly vendors, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday.

One female inspector told the board that the job has “broken my spirit” and called the situation a “nightmare,” while several others detailed their harrowing experiences on the job, which included being physically assaulted and being threatened with knives and guns. 

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San Francisco trolley on hill

San Francisco vendor inspectors have implored the city government to protect them from the threats and abuse they get while working on city streets. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

The group of street vendor inspectors represent a new San Francisco Public Works team devoted to enforcing vendor law after the duty was removed from San Francisco police in 2022. 

The change of hands followed Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., signing into law a bill written by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, that decriminalized street vending, resulting in violators receiving a fine rather than a misdemeanor.

Illegal street vendors have become entrenched in various parts of the city, including Mission Street, Chinatown, the Excelsior, Mid-Market, U.N. Plaza, and other neighborhoods. According to the inspectors, these vendors have grown increasingly antagonistic and dangerous. 

Many of these altercations have happened even with police escorts, the inspectors told the board.

Inspector Theresa McNamara told the board that as a result of her job, “My mental health is suffering and frankly it’s affecting my family and friends too. They watch me struggle with panic attacks that I didn’t have before this assignment. This has become a living nightmare for us.”

Other vendor inspectors kept their names and their faces hidden as they spoke to the board, for fear that they’d suffer repercussions at work. They claimed they’d been “physically assaulted and threatened with knives and firearms, especially by vendors and fencers of stolen goods,” the outlet wrote.

One of these anonymous inspectors told the board that he has worked for the city for 13 years and has never felt more “demoralized” while doing so. He noted that inspectors don’t even report all incidents, claiming it’s “too much paperwork.”

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San Francisco police

San Francisco Police used to deal with illegal street vendors until Gov. Newsom decriminalized the practice.  (San Francisco Police Department)

Another inspector ripped Newsom and Gonzalez’s law, stating “This is failed legislation.”

They added, “The police need to deal with street vendors. Those are the people that need to handle this, not street inspectors who were hired and trained to check permits, the safety of sidewalks and that the right of way is clear.”

Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon told The Chronicle about the growing problem last month, saying that the inspectors have been “pushed, bumped, (had) items thrown at them” and have received “frequent” verbal attacks. 

In a statement she gave to the outlet this week, Gordon added that her department is considering hiring private security to escort inspectors. For the moment, they have the option to wear bulletproof vests, get police escorts when they’re enforcing the law, and they can “rotate out of enforcement duty” if they’re involved in an incident.

Gordon added, “Our inspectors should not be attacked for doing their jobs. When inspectors are out there, things improve. We hope that through the mayor’s office and the board we can get state law changed to put these criminal activities, when they are criminal activities, with law enforcement.”

The San Francisco Board Of Supervisors and Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

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